Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Shawarma Guys Take Your Tastebuds to the Middle East

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a huge shawarma fan. Sure, I'll have it if I need something to fill my belly 'til the next meal, but I don't have a particular craving for it.

Let me explain: I'm not a huge fan of the shawarmas HERE. What I truly miss is the shawarmas I'd get in Dubai - big pieces of flat bread rolled up with veggies, chicken or lamb, and fries, and a platter of hummus on the side. Add a glass of salty laban and I will be in ecstasy for however long it would take to finish that shawarma and the drink.

I would beg my friends in Dubai to pack a frozen shawarma (or four) whenever they visit Manila, pop them in the microwave, and savor the remnants of what was once a phenomenal meal. Yes, it's kind of disgusting, but what's a girl to do to get good shawarma around here?

Thankfully, Chef Benjo Tuason heard my prayer and helped to put up Shawarma Guys in Bonifacio Global City! It was almost as if it was meant to be. I didn't have to hike all the way up to Mandaluyong or Quezon City for the mediocre Mister Kebab anymore. Here was something way better at almost the same price point. I was very happy.

Shawarma Guys is located at the Fort Pointe Building, right below Sunshine Kitchen. I love how colorful and vibrant the signage and the rest of the restaurant is - with three guys with traditional Middle Eastern and Indian headgear - ushering you into the brightly lit space. If I were to describe this place, I'd say this is like the Mister Kebab of BGC, but way cleaner and with much better food.

I started dinner there with a simple Beef Shawarma (P119). I like how they aren't at all shy with the onions, shawarmas are supposed to have a nice bite to them. Don't let the picture fool you, there was a lot of beef hiding inside! Each one was generously spiced - I tasted a lot of garam masala going on as well as other spices that made the beef delicious on it's own. I did away with the garlic yogurt sauce on this one, the flavors were pretty awesome on their own.

The Chicken Shawarma (P99) was really affordable and was pretty outstanding if you consider the price point. As heavily spiced as the beef, I'd eat the shawarma as it and do away with the sauces. For those who are looking for them, they have a lovely thick garlic yogurt sauce as well as a fiery hot sauce. They aren't kidding with the heat - all you need are a few drops of this potent concoction and it'll set your mouth on fire.

I also tried the gamier Lamb Shawarma (P139), which was my favorite wrap that night. It was nicely spiced yet not overpowering, and I enjoyed the gaminess the meat presents. What I was missing were the hand cut fries. If only they could add that to the classic wraps (beef, lamb, and chicken) they'd be golden in my book.

Known for their "shawarmas with a twist", Shawarma Brothers appeals to the Filipino palette with the Sisig Shawarma (P109). I was a bit skeptical of this at first - I am a purist after all. But after tasting this, I took it back. This was the bomb! Crisp sisig bits are piled onto a shawarma, along with bits of lettuce and onions, and generously doused with garlic yogurt sauce.

I was nostalgic for laban, a Lebanese drink which is basically salted yogurt - think Arabic yakult. The closest I could get to it was its Indian counterpart, lassi. Eyeing the Yogurt Shake (P99) on the menu, I ordered this straight up (it also comes in mango) and expected it to be a bit salty. It wasn't. It was surprisingly quite sweet and refreshing, almost like a yogurt milkshake. Although not at all what I was expecting, the drink was refreshing and inviting - I could have had another glass.

The Hummus with Pita (P99) was ground a lot more coarsely than what I was used to, but this gave the dish a lot more flavor. It is served the Lebanese way - with a bit of olive oil and a dash of paprika. All that was missing was a lemon wedge and we were in business.

Shawarma Guys come out with a 'Shawarma of the Month', the most popular being the Bacon Shawarma and the Buffalo Chicken Shawarma with a Bleu Yogurt Sauce. Last month they featured a Cheesesteak Shawarma (P139), a roll of beef slathered with melted cheese, onions, and bell peppers. I felt let down - it didn't sing to me as much as the Buffalo Chicken Shawarma did. This month, their special "Shawarma of the Month" is the Lamb Sisig Shawarma (P139). I have yet to try it, but the combination of lamb and sisig in the artisan hands of Chef Benjo can only promise greatness.

I have been disillusioned by the keema I've tasted here - bland, dry, and absolutely horrible. Chef Benjo must have felt the same way, because the Keema (P109) that I had here was by far the best I've tasted hands down. No need to drown it in yogurt garlic sauce to add flavor - all you need is a squeeze of lemon and enjoy it with pita or rice.

Trying out their rice meals, my favorite of the lot is definitely the Lamb Kebab with Rice (P239). There is something intrinsically Arabic about spiced lamb that makes me all nostalgic and takes me back, and the meat was ever so tender, retaining that game-y flavor.

The Chicken Kebab with Rice (P169) is simply presented, and goes well when slathered in garlic yogurt sauce and a bit of the hot sauce. Nicely spiced, the chicken isn't as heavy on the tummy as the rest of the rice dishes and is the perfect jumping off point for those easing themselves into Arabic cuisine.

The heartier Beef Kebab with Rice (P179) is really nice - the perfect hangover food - with the grilled meat being the star of the dish, waiting to be coated with a garlic yogurt dip and splodges of hot sauce.

I was looking forward to the Buttered Chicken Curry (P159) since it looked so appealing in the photo, but was let down when tasted it. I was expecting a very rich, spicy, buttery sauce, but what I tasted was more tomato-based, like the sauce of a watered down caldereta.

As a self-proclaimed shawarma connoisseur, I highly recommend giving Shawarma Guys a go - it's definitely one of the closest ones to the real deal that I've tasted in a while. Come by for lunch, before you hit the clubs, or after, as it seems to make for great drunk food.

Here's a tip when mucking around BGC: If you're in for a really quick lunch, Shawarma Guys also offers curbside delivery. Swing by for your order at the pick up point across NBC Tent, right by the parking entrance of Fort Strip after 20 minutes. It'll save you time and the parking fee.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila

Shawarma Guys
+63 2 966 8838 or +63 917 891 4333
G/F, Fort Pointe Building, Fort Strip,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Open Daily: 11am - 2pm; 5pm - 4am